Commentary Magazine


Obama to Follow the North Korean Model on Iran

There hasn’t been much reason for anyone to have confidence about Barack Obama’s seriousness of purpose when it comes to trying to stop Iran from obtaining nuclear capability. But the president’s statement today on ABC’s Good Morning America appeared to remove any doubt about whether the administration was prepared to live with a nuclear Iran.

When asked by George Stephanopoulos about Russian President Medvedev’s promise to cooperate with U.S. diplomatic efforts on Iran, Obama tried to trumpet this shaky agreement as a great American triumph while at the same time lowering expectations that it will actually lead to any action, let alone a modification of Iranian behavior.

“If the question is do we have a guarantee as to the sanctions we are able to institute at this stage are automatically going to change Iranian behavior, of course we don’t,” Obama said. “The history of the Iranian regime, like the North Korean regime is that, you know, you apply international pressure on these countries, sometimes they choose to change behavior, sometimes they don’t.”

Since the only sorts of sanctions on Iran that Russia will agree to will make no impression on Tehran, Obama is right to lower our expectations. But his invocation of the example of North Korea is particularly ominous. Nearly two decades of alternating meaningless sanctions with appeasement and engagement have led to a depressing situation where the West has been left with no option but acquiescence to a nuclear North Korea. If the best the president of the United States can do in response to Iran’s intransigence is to merely say that his efforts might or might not succeed, why should anyone doubt that he is prepared to live with a nuclear Iran as he is with North Korea?

Despite Obama’s talk about his optimism about the Iranian regime being smart enough to see that they will benefit from abandoning their nuclear quest, it’s more than obvious that what Tehran will glean from this interview — as well as everything else the administration has said and done on this issue — will be that they have nothing to lose by continuing on their current path. With Russia and China effectively blocking any hope for crippling sanctions, with the threat of force off the table, and with the president now openly preparing the nation for America’s failure, why should the Khamenei/Ahmadinejad regime do anything but use all the extra time Obama has gifted them with to forge ahead toward their nuclear goal?

It should also be noted that when asked by Stephanopoulos about the latest round of vicious personal insults directed at him by Ahmadinejad, Obama responded with his stereotypical cool and merely spoke about “unproductive” remarks. Indeed, the worst thing Obama could say about the Iranian was to compare him with Sarah Palin, whose spot-on criticism of the administration’s nuclear policy he dismissed with contempt. A man who doesn’t see much of a distinction between a domestic political opponent and a Holocaust-denying anti-Semitic tyrant is missing a moral compass. But then again, this is the same person who has chosen to wage diplomatic war on Israel while engaging Iran and appeasing Russia.